How To Trademark Something

By David Carnes

A trademark is a mark, symbol or combination of words that distinctively identifies a product or service -- McDonald's Golden Arches, for example. Trademarks have economic value because they represent the business reputation of the products they represent or the company with which they are identified. Registration of your trademark with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office allows you to obtain nationwide protection, sue in federal courts and qualify for international protection.

Step 1

Select a non-generic trademark. Generic trademarks are unacceptable. For example, "Apple Computers" is a non-generic phrase, but "Apple Apples" is generic.

Step 2

Search the Trademark Electronic Search System, or TESS, on the website of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to determine if your proposed trademark is identical or deceptively similar to another registered trademark. If it is, change your trademark enough to make it distinctive. To register a logo, search the Design Search Code Manual on the USPTO website to find codes that identify your design, then use these codes to search for similar designs.

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Step 3

Draft a description of the goods or services that your trademark will protect. This description should be about a paragraph long and must be included with your trademark application.

Step 4

Classify your product by obtaining a code from the USPTO's Acceptable Identification of Goods and Services Manual on the USPTO website. For example, your product may be classified as anything from adhesive bandages to blouses. A code will be attached to each classification, and you must use this code in your trademark application.

Step 5

Create a jpeg file attachment bearing the image of your trademark. If your trademark includes both wording and a design element, you must create digital representations for each.

Step 6

Complete the online trademark application using the USPTO's Trademark Electronic Application System, or TEAS, on the USPTO website, including the description you drafted, your product identification code and your digital representation. Supply your name and the name of your business, as well as identification, contact and biographical information.

Step 7

Pay the required filing fee online by credit or debit card.

Step 8

Renew your trademark registration between the fifth and sixth year after registration, between the ninth and 10th year, and every 10 years after that. To maintain your registration, you must continue to use your trademark in commerce -- or have an acceptable reason for non-use, complete a renewal application and pay a filing fee.

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How to Apply for a Trademark


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Trademark Vs. Logo

Logos distinguish your business from the competition. Trademarks ensure that you maintain exclusive rights to this highly identifiable feature of your company. Rather than being at odds with each other, trademark rights provide protection for your logo, and this protects both you and your customers.

Can I Trademark Before I Sell the Product?

Since the federal trademark registration process takes several months, it makes sense to apply for trademark registration as soon as you design your mark while in the initial stages of product development. Your company can file a federal trademark registration application before you sell any products. You can also potentially secure common law trademark rights in your name, logo or slogan through actual use in the marketplace, such as pre-sale marketing. Under common law, a company automatically secures trademark rights once the original mark is used in association with its goods or services offered in the marketplace.

Difference Between a Logo & Trademark

Trademarks include company names, logos, slogans and designs used to identify and distinguish a company's goods in its business trade. The physical mark can be a word, sign, symbol or design that identifies the trademark owner. A trademark must be a unique identifying mark, specifically associated with the goods or services that a company offers in commercial trade. One type of trademark includes the company logo. A logo can qualify as a trademark -- if it meets the minimum requirements. To qualify as a trademark, a logo must be a unique mark used to identify and distinguish the company's goods or services offered in the marketplace. Strong logos often become easily recognizable trademarks throughout society.

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